Friday, October 3, 2014

Some Things Arlo Has Learned From Noah

That when I pick up a stick, or a foam or plastic sword, the sound to make is "Hi-ya!" and then "Hi-ya! Hi-ya! Hi-ya!"

That when my brother asks me to give something to him that I am holding, I better hold on tightly to it because he may come after it anyway even if I say "No."

That sweets or treats left unattended or uneaten may not be there when I look back for them. In fact, they may even start disappearing while I am still eating them.

That big brothers are kind of the same thing as God, right now.

That when the big thing called the School Bus comes, Noah comes home so happy to see me!

That when Noah invites me to come under the covers with him, I might get tickled. So sometimes I will go, and sometimes not.

That he has power, but I do too. If he gets too close to my face, I can hit him in the head.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Loose Ends and a Watering Can

Arlo and Matthew are asleep, and Noah is off with a friend at Vacation Bible School for the evening.  I am not ready to sleep.  I could work, knock a few shows off the recordings, write in my journal.  But I have a lonely, restless feeling, one that definitely needs a little attention, a little managing.

Sometimes I have these moments when I wonder what it will be like when my children are grown, and it is just my husband and me again.  We've had so little time together.  We met and married quickly, in less than a year.  We had Noah a year and a half after that.  He was our focus for the next 6 years, and then Arlo joined us a year and a half ago - so we started again.  Life is incredibly busy with two children, no matter how I simplify our home and our schedule.  Matthew and I have never been away overnight together since we had Noah.  We haven't been out on even a dinner date since Arlo was born. 

When I met Matthew, it was like everyone I'd previously dated or lived with suddenly clustered together as common experiences, and he was in a different box all by himself.  It was more like I recognized him than was introduced to him.  And like me, he had been through some relationships which felt like fighting battles.  We were both sure of what we saw in the other, and we joined hands and jumped, wholeheartedly.

But, as must so often be the case, we bring our battles along with us.  Next year we will be married 10 years, and our boys will be 8 and 2.  So much behind with them, and still a long way to go.  My children are the best thing about my life.  In my life before Matthew I didn't dare to imagine being a mom in any detail, and couldn't possibly have accurately imagined it anyway.  And now it is my life, the biggest and most meaningful part of my day-to-day.

And I miss my husband so much.  At the same time, sometimes I feel like I don't know what I'm missing, because I've learned more deeply about him the hard way - sleep-deprived, with small children needing and wanting, needing and wanting, as we try to need and want alongside them.  Something has had to give, and it has been our needs and wants a lot of the time, at least as they relate to time with each other.  Time to talk, to laugh, to console, to get to know.  We've done the best we could.  Sometimes I think we should be farther along as a couple, somehow doing this better, whatever that means, since it has been 10 years.  And sometimes I think, we've given that time to them, our sweet little people, and given it more than willingly.  We wouldn't have had it any other way.  And so how much could I really even know about my husband?  Still, 10 years is a long time to be with someone.

I wish I could talk with other couples, about marriage.  About what they do to keep going, to keep the faith, to shore up the crumbling bridges.  It's clear that the fighting battles paradigm does not a peaceful marriage make.  Tonight it doesn't feel like it's full of mistakes or hardships, it's just that I wish my friend was here, downstairs, feeling companionable, and like so many moments when we are dividing labor, working our jobs, caring for our children in different directions, I am missing him instead, passing him in the fog of the days, watching him from a very long way off.  

I wrote a poem once a long time ago, before I knew Matthew, and I am thinking of it tonight:


You are something I cannot touch
and I cannot be touched.
There is a barbed wire fence around my head.
My hair a tangle of snarls and burrs in it,
my fingers scarred from ancient attempts
at cutting the wire.
A tornado engulfs my body.
It is impossible to focus on the whirling mass
of dust and molecules that make me up
from the neck down.
So I stand isolated
head locked up like a jewelry box
body a binary star in motion
and you an onlooker
with no eyes.
We are hopeless you and I
no power to touch
no power to see
only lost in our own heads
to imagine what it is
we keep bumping up against.

Maybe that poem is more hopeless than it needs to be, or maybe I just needed a little space to let that part of me breathe so I can go on to tell my lonely, restless self that not being seen tonight, in this moment, is not the worst thing that could happen.  I am a lucky woman.  There is no way around it.  A very fortunate woman.  Tonight, this quiet prayer finds the seed there still, gratitude in the dusty soil, and this finger pointing up to the light.

Thursday, May 15, 2014


I know that Spring has come to Maine when I find myself driving behind a huge tractor towing the sharpest, spikiest, most unidentifiable piece of farm equipment I've ever seen, and it's all over the road.  Taking a break from practicing the training I am about to deliver, I try to determine how many jobs this piece of equipment can fulfill.  I am still coming up with ideas when it finally careens off the road into a driveway.

Everything is coming out all over, as we all lurch into Spring.  I can't believe it is mid-May.  I feel like it must mean something, but I can't remember or think of what it is.  That is part of the discombobulation.  The field around our house went from dead to lush green in less than a week.  Yet we've also lit a few fires in the woodstove in the past several days because of the cold temperatures.

Arlo began sleeping a big chunk of time at night (6-7 hours) about a month or so back, so I am coming out of the longest, most sleep-deprived time of my life.  This is its own herky-jerky, false-start sort of experience.  I feel a renewed connection with him, spontaneous joy, and delight bubbling up at lots of moments throughout any given day.  I simultaneously feel like, "Where have I been?  What the Hell happened?"  Whether it was exhaustion or depression or both over this winter, who knows - I was blurry, many times unable to put sentences together, and overall so underwater that I wasn't even missing being able to talk anyway.  I read an article the other day that described the first year for moms of sleepless babies as the "Dark Time," and while I wouldn't have dared describe it that way when I was in it, looking back it sure does smell bleak and foggy to me now.

I have been out weeding the flower garden for a half hour a day for the past week.  I do not remember weeding the garden a single time last summer - I think my stepson did it for me finally at the end of the summer.  Strangely, the flowers are somehow blooming, despite being embedded in a strangling carpet of witch grass.  And as with the rest of my life, I am trying to bring it all back into the fold, slowly, 15 minutes at a time here and there.  It's baby steps, but at least I am on my feet again, right?

There were a lot of days over the winter when I didn't feel like getting up because I was so tired I couldn't imagine navigating the day ahead, and going to bed at night was no better because I knew I wouldn't sleep two hours in a row.  Now it is the exception when Arlo wakes for the first time before 2 or 3 in the morning, and he always sleeps again until 6 or 6:30.  Through this winter I attended to my consulting projects, washed and folded endless loads of laundry, tried new recipes, and made a few, but not many, phone calls.  But mostly what I recall, is being cold, and very, very tired.

So Arlo is changing as the world awakens, and it all is moving forward, growing, and showing itself.  It's a wild world, and as the mountain passes open, the water rushes everywhere, trying to join with other water.  The newspaper is full of enhanced craziness, but mostly I am paying attention to the others I see stretching and squinting into the light too, looking to connect again.  It's so nice to be among the living, something it is easy to forget in the dark of winter in Maine.  Today as Arlo and I filled the birdbath together, we stopped to watch two Canadian geese fly and honk overhead.  "Dat!  Dat!" He said.  I wholeheartedly agree.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sometimes Parenting is NOT About Multitasking

After what feels like months of filling every moment of every day, so that even the very end of day before bedtime is crammed with piles of laundry, and brushing my teeth and getting my pajamas on feels like one more chore, today it feels much stiller.  Arlo is sick, and wants me to hold him.  Which I have done since 6:00 this morning when he woke up, after a long night of me sleeping next to his feverish hot potato body.

He has largely slept, in that lethargic, eye rolling way, waking to cry for a minute, before he slumps back into a hot sleep again.  And so I have typed some work, watched a mini-marathon of t.v. shows on my computer, did a few conference calls.  And here I am writing for pleasure, as he sleeps on in my arms.  But it has been one thing at a time, often one-handed one thing at a time, but this rather than three or more things at a time, when I would normally make lunch for myself, for Arlo, wash the breakfast dishes, sweep and mop the floor, pay our bills, and answer the phone, while work whistled to me from my office.  None of that today though, just one at a time, with a big baby on me, heating my lap right through his clothes and the blanket he is wrapped up in.

Recently I was saying to my husband that I am afraid at times that Arlo doesn't like me very much.  A more accurate statement at the time probably would have been that I don't like me very much, and that parenting at this juncture feels especially hard, which is how Matthew responded.  Hard and busy, not my favorite combination because the time for reflection, for regrouping, is usually between the time Arlo falls asleep for a nap and when I walk to my computer to work.  A matter of seconds, if any time at all.  Put one thing down and pick up another.  Put one down, and pick one up.  Put down, pick up.  Round and round I often go like a whirling dervish, except with a lot less grace than the actual dervishes, if you've ever seen them.

But today, Arlo is very close to me.  On me.  Needing me.  Every time he opens his eyes he needs me to say that he's going to be alright.  He asks, every time, with his tired, sick eyes, with his little hands clutching me.  With his cry.  And so today Mommy lets a lot of the other voices fall away, and I hold Arlo and pick away at this and that, one thing at a time.  The cacophony stills.  It is so rare for a day to be one-note right now, and being with a sick child (who is not too sick) is a strange kind of quiet.  It is a worried quiet, a sad quiet, and also a restful one.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Long Winter Disease

I, and everyone I know, has had it with this particular Maine winter.  It came on too strong, too fast in December, gave us a cold, powerless Christmas, cold and more cold to follow, and for my little family, weekly if not daily furnace troubles that continue as we now navigate a complaint against our furnace manufacturer.

Among the many other things I cannot bear any longer, is carrying over the item week after week on my TO DO list in my calendar book.  "Blog."  "Blog."  "Blog."  Maybe if I'd underlined it, or put it in all capitals, or said "Please blog," or "I'll give you $10 if you blog today," then I would have done it sooner.  Done it every three days, or even once a month.  But it has somehow been easier to carry it along on my TO DO list, feeling sluggier and sluggier about my meek writer identity.

I have, however, done some mommy blog reading in the last several months, but one day last month they all started to come across to me as somehow formulaic.  It might have been the same day as our last snowstorm, when my days began feeling formulaic too.  But the blogs, post after post of how bittersweet is motherhood, how wild the latest multitasking cacophony, how downright crazy are the expectations on mothers, and the various responses from martyr, to cheerful participant, to grim co-anchor.  Tedious is the word that comes to mind as I think over these blogs, as completely uncharitable as that sounds towards the authors and mothers in general.  I have been particularly disheartened by a few mommy blogs I've read that include flamboyant cursing in every sentence.  I'm struck by how unfunny these posts are, but sadly am not sure why, either because these mothers are trying so hard, or because I don't have the energy to laugh with them.  Let's face it, I'm really fed up with myself.

That is the major symptom of long winter disease, by the way - a feeling of general joylessness, resulting in related symptoms of snappish relating, dragging feet, and overall impatience with the present moment coupled with the feeling that there is no better moment to go to.  Another major symptom I experience is tired parenting.  There is no other phrase for it that I can come up with.  Tired people doing tired parenting.  And it's not much fun for parents or kids - I can't recommend it.

So I am thus flailing about, beginning March unlike a lion.  If I muster energy on a given day it somehow gets sucked into questioning - my marriage, my friendships, my parenting, my housecleaning.  My clothes.  If I do not have energy, then I am slightly better able to let go of all of this and focus on taking care of Arlo (read: tired parenting), doing some consulting work, mopping the kitchen floor, and playing a board game at the counter with Noah when he gets home from school.  Long winter disease wreaks the most havoc with my life in these weeks when the normal moments of attending to the little things, the things that anchor me, provide me meaning and direction, and often such joy, become a stream of irritating, buzzing mosquitoes.  An endless pile of bricks to stack.  A recurring dream of an emergency but I can't dial the rotary phone for help.  You get the idea.  Please, Mother Nature, mother me and bring on the melting and the mud, so I can go out and play again.